Puppet Building Blog

1701, 2017

Kid puppet for Denmark pilot

One of my favorite parts of the job is knowing that I can provide a quality product for the people who hire me.  This is a spectacular case of that.  My name was brought up by a former client in a meeting about having a puppet built for a new kids pilot being shot (and aired) in Denmark.  I am no stranger to shipping puppets overseas, and this was another in a long line if international delights.  The briefing was fairly simple; a fun, inquisitive younger character to be partnered with an older human actor.  Brilliant.  

So, I contacted my friend Dave Hulteen (whose work you’ve seen in the past if you are no stranger to my site) and had him draw up some preliminary concepts.  The client settled on one they liked, and after a few revisions, I was ready to build.  One of the challenges of building this puppet was his costuming.  The character features “live” hands, meaning that the puppets hands are worn as gloves by the performer.   This meant that all of the costuming had tso be done custom. He has two costumes, actually.  So, in a stroke of Frankensteinian madness, I cobbled together a beautiful, functioning pair of jackets from the remains of several other jackets of the type.    Take a look at the pictures below, and as always, feel free to contact me at sharklink@aol.com with puppet inquiries.

 

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1701, 2017

Rebuilding BlueBerry!

One of my favorite things to do as an artist is to rebuild existing characters.  I’ve always liked doing it to my own creations, and I got an even more fun opportunity in 2015 to rebuild Cal for Frank Cesario.  In 2016, I got to do the same thing.  I was approached by the sweetest woman from Florida about rebuilding a character she called BlueBerry.  BlueBerry was apparently a life long friend to her young Grandson.  I was so excited to rebuild, redesign, and put my own spin on BlueBerry.   A lot of trial and error went into this project, as the original is so…well, original.  It took a while to capture the same feel and incredible level of performability.    I took such great care in replicating all of her cute little details.  Enjoy the pictures below.

 

 

 

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509, 2016

Sonic the Hedgehog

509, 2016

Sonic the Hedgehog commission

I find that puppet building is never without surprises.  I was contacted recently by a client who frequents the video game convention circuit.  He wanted to do a Sonic the Hedgehog themed Cosplay, which I found super appealing.  He asked if I would be able to recreate Sonic in puppet form for him to take with him to the conventions.   I accepted and the work began.

My first thought going in was one of a curious, faux-anxiety.   I had never taken on a  project that required this intense level of patterning ability and time consuming detail.  It was a challenge I was happy to approach.    I cannot begin to describe the hours that went into the making of this puppet.

The first decision to make was how I was going to get my patterns.  I could try to sculpt the character in clay, as I have done before with other characters, or I could try to find some sort of totem or statue of the character to base my patterns on.  I decided that the complexity of the shape was above my sculpting ability, and so I set out looking for an accurate representation of Sonic.  I settled on a VERY expensive, limited edition toy that had been produced of the character.  The piece was rare, and I had to pay $100 just to get my hands on one.  That said, it was entirely worth it, even though the toy had to be disassembled and destroyed.

 

Check out the gallery of photos below to see how this project came together.  Enjoy, and as always, please contact me at sharklink@aol.com for inquiries about custom builds.

 

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707, 2016

My Featured interview on The Muppetcast!

This is such an incredible pleasure to share.  Steve Swanson, creator and host of The Muppetcast podcast for ALL things Muppet/Henson/puppetry, asked me a few weeks ago if I would sit down for an interview for an upcoming episode of The Muppetcast.  I was excited beyond measure.  Many years ago, around 2008, while I was still in the beginnings of my puppet building journey, I sent Steve a Youtube video of mine featuring impressions of Muppet characters, an he was seemingly impressed enough and kind enough to play it on the show.   So, I invited my close friend and co-puppet conspirator David Hosay and we sat down for an hour and a half chat.   If you’d like to hear me gab about my experience with puppets, my love for  Jim Henson, and how I’ve turned a hobby into a business, check out this episode of The Muppetcast,  and if you like it, please share it around!

 

Show #286: Building a Puppet Empire, with James Kemp

2806, 2016

puppet look-a-likes

Often, I will get requests for puppets that look like people that the client knows, or sometimes the client themselves.  It’s wonderful to build puppets that represent people because puppets in any form are representations of real life characters from either the world or myth.  I enjoy doing portrait puppets like these.  I am not entirely clear on the use of these guys, only that they were build to be featured in a video to be shown at a work retreat.  One puppet of the client, the other of a coworker.  Not too much else to be said about these guys, but they were a blast to build on such a tight time frame.  

 

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2806, 2016

Puppets for Balcom Agency

   A few months ago, I was approached about another incredible opportunity to do some very cool puppet work.  I built three puppets (one not pictured) for Balcom Agency out of Ft. Worth, TX who represents Dairy Max.   After the puppets were built, they flew me out to Dallas to puppeteer for a project designed to teach kids about eating well and exercising enough every day in partnership with the NFL.  

I loved building these puppets.  They’re early teenagers in character, and I was told for the blue one to think Zack Effron from High School Musical.  The puppet is even named Zack.  Nick, the green one, was equally fun to build with his more scientific mind and more well kept appearance.  It was a challenge, but also a lot of fun costuming these guys.  Abby, who is not pictured but will be seen in the video, was a challenge of her own.  I bought a wig for her and took it to the stylist to have it cut and styled.  She wears a cute top with a fun denim jacket.  

   On the first shoot day, we shot on a Dairy farm about an hour and a half from Dallas that housed about 4500 cows.  Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been around 4500 cows, but that is a LOT of cows.  And smells accordingly.   For this shoot, I performed Abby live on the set, while an actress will dub her voice in post production.

 On the second shoot date, we shot at the Dallas Cowboys facility and had a blast.  I loved working with the crew, and with Daniel Mathews, our other puppeteer from right there in Texas.  I performed Zack, and he performed Nick. It was an incredible experience to be sure.  Here are pictures of two of the puppets built.   I go into the booth to do some voice over work for this project today, so as soon as the final project is completed, I will post it here for all to see.  

 

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1306, 2016

Bosseah of The Beauforts

A short time ago, comic creator and artist Jim Allen contacted me about bringing one of his characters to life in the form of a three dimensional puppet.  I was more than excited to do so.  Jim was able to offer me great art to work from, including several other tidbits about the character that helped shape the finished product.  I actually used quite a few new techniques in the process of this build.  One of the tricks I used was carving a solid piece of foam into his nose shape.  The nose was too big for my vacuum forming machine to handle, so I carved it from foam and covered it with dyed fleece.  The colors on this puppet were a bit tricky to nail.  His five o’clock shadow had to look natural with the rest of his face.  I also carved his tongue from dyed foam, and patterned his teeth out of a closed cell foam.  All in all, this was a great experience for me, and Jim was a treat to work with.  Check out the pictures of the build below as well as this video of me discussing the project at greater length.    And be sure to check out The Beauforts comic strips here: www.thebeauforts.com

 

 

 

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605, 2016

HUGE SECRET PROJECT FOR KFC

SO!  for the last two weeks I have been working myself as hard as I can to complete these two identical puppets of Colonel Harland Sanders for Wieden + Kennedy, who produce all of the ads for KFC.  This was an INCREDIBLE experience.  It was a lot of fun tracking down all of the correct and essential costuming elements for these guys.  I even got to flow out to Portland, OR to puppeteer this incredible Mother’s Day video.  I puppeteered the entire thing, and provided a scratch track on set.    Check out these pictures as well as the finished video product below!  This was a HUGE opportunity for me, and I enjoyed it immensely.

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505, 2016

New original character

Finally got the chance to finish up a puppet that was just for me.  I am very happy with the way he turned out.  I scissor cut all of his fur by hand, which took forever, but you can’t argue with the results.  I am very happy with this guy.  I especially love the foam tongue I carved for him.  You can see a short video of this new character below.

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